We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach is beyond intense, y’all.

Before Ardor came we let ourselves be defined by labels—
The athlete, the slut, the slacker, the overachiever. 

But then we all looked up and everything changed. 

They said the asteroid would be here in two months. That gave us two months to leave our labels behind. Two months to become something bigger than what we'd been, something that would last even after the end. 

Two months to really live.”

As you can see from the book description, We All Looked Up has a very Breakfast Clubby vibe: four teenagers from different backgrounds and social statuses coming together to live it up before the world ends.

Now, I love The Breakfast Club, but that is not why I bought this book. I bought this book because it has the most beautiful cover I’ve ever seen. (Plus, the dust jacket feels amazing to boot!) I saw this in the store and said, “Yep. I need that.” I know, I know, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but show me a cover this beautiful and I’ll show you a book I’d like to own even if it is terribly written.

Luckily, this book was not terribly written. In fact, it was beautifully written.

First of all, I love that this book is set prior to and up to an apocalyptic moment, but not post-apocalypse. There are so many books and movies and TV shows out right now that cover what happens after the world crumbles, but not as many deal with what happens as the world is preparing to crumble. So, that’s pretty cool.

I also liked that Wallach alternated the POV between all of the main characters. The book opens in Peter’s perspective and my first thought was honestly, “Great, another story about a privileged, popular athlete discovering himself with a group of misfits. How novel.” Thankfully, though, Wallach surprised me by the next chapter being from Eliza’s perspective, followed by Andy’s, and then Anita’s. The story wasn’t about a group of people enriching one person’s life, but instead about a group of people enriching each other’s lives.

It was beautiful:

“And there in the darkness of the hotel room, scarcely more than twenty-four hours before the maybe end of the world, the three of them managed to laugh together. It turned out that no amount of terror could stop the great human need to connect. Or maybe, Anita though, terror was actually at the heart of that need. After all, every life ended in an apocalypse, in one way or another.”

It was funny:

“The end of the world revealed the futility of all commemorative plaques.”

And it felt like a call to action:

“You don’t wanna go out of this world with regrets. If there’s something you want to do, you do it. You take this life by the balls and you tell it that you existed.”

Despite my deep admiration for this book, not everything was perfect. My biggest problem was with the stereotypes Wallach used to create some of the characters. We had the popular jock with the mean girlfriend, the over-achiever with the emotionally abusive father, and the slacker who does drugs and rides around on a skateboard. The only character who didn’t fit into any well known character molds was Eliza, as the sexually promiscuous artistic type who is also a social activist. Starting from stereotypes isn’t always a problem, but it becomes a problem when you fail to turn them into something new. The issue here is that Wallach took the stereotypical characters and turned them into a giant cliché. The book ended (almost) exactly the way I imagined it ending when I started reading it. The lesson here seemed to be that all people are more complex than we imagine and human connection is important to humanity, which, hopefully, is something everyone already realizes. I just left this book with a slight disappointment that it didn’t explore new territory and push the boundaries a bit more as far as character development.

It did push the boundaries on what a reader will believe four teenagers can get themselves into in the span of a few weeks. These kids had their noses in every kind of tomfoolery imaginable and it became almost laughable at some points.

All of that aside, Tommy Wallach’s debut novel is well worth the read, even if I have my reservations.

If you are a fan of post-apocalyptic novels, The Breakfast Club, or understanding exactly how the world would fall apart if a giant asteroid threatened to end life on the planet, then this book is for you!

Happy Reading,

Mallory

P.S I Still Love You by Jenny Han

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han – the sequel to the New York Times Bestselling To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before – continues the story of Lara Jean Song and Peter Kavinsky’s…uhmm…pretend relationship/crush/break-up/real relationship, and as you can probably tell, it’s complicated. Not only does Lara Jean have to deal with Peter’s clingy ex, but when a boy from her past comes barreling into her life (and her heart!—Yes, I’m that cheesy.) she is forced to reevaluate everything.

First things first, this book is too cute. I read the entire thing in one day—although I did technically have to stay up until 2 AM to finish the job—and it charmed my socks right off! Lara Jean and Peter’s little fights are so sweet. However, I should add that it probably isn’t healthy to bribe your significant other with lemon cookies, regardless of how effective it is. Their romance doesn’t feel forced the way a lot of teen romances can feel, where the guy has perfectly tousled hair in the middle of a hurricane and always knows exactly what to say to make a girl melt. While I’m on the subject of melting, I love that Lara Jean doesn’t melt every time Peter (or anyone else) tries to sweet talk her. She is strong and seems capable to handle things on her own, which is something I admire about her. However, when it comes to admiration, Kitty has earned all of mine! I’d like to adopt her as my own little sister. She’s smart as a whip, she named her dog Jamie Fox-Pickle (hilarious!), and she knows how to get what she wants, whether it’s a dog or a ride in her sister’s boyfriend’s car. So many of the characters felt vibrant and real to me, especially Stormy Sinclair from the retirement community!

Now, as charming and all around heartwarming as PSISLY is, there are still a few problems for me. The biggest issue was an overall lack of tension. Even during the intense parts of the story, like when Lara Jean was being cyber bullied, I felt bad for her, but I didn’t pick up on the tension because it wasn’t clear to me what she stood to lose with the video going viral. Sure, her dad found out about it, but they had a brief conversation and everything was fine again. I like that Han didn’t get preachy and make her book into an after school special on cyber bullying or the dangers of teenage sex, but I did want to see some actual consequences for Lara Jean and Peter. I also needed to see more consequences for Lara Jean depending on which guy from her love triangle she decided to choose.

Overall, it was adorable and there was a general lack of consequences leading to a general lack of tension.

But, if you like romancey-funny-cutesy books, then give it a read!

Happy Reading,

Mallory